SABANGAN, Mountain Province: The spilling of soil and other spoils along the Chico River brought about by the construction of roads and cutting of trees by Hedcor got the ire of former Mayor Jupiter Dominguez of Sabangan who called for the temporary stoppage of Hedcor’s construction of its 14-megawatt mini hydro at Barangays Napua and Namatec pending construction of structures to prevent soil erosion.
A meeting here with Hedcor, officials of the local government unit of Sabangan and Barangays Napua and Namatec and other concerned residents on January 23 noted that spoils from earth movements should be hauled to an engineered disposal area to serve as a dumping site to prevent any environmental destruction on project site and nearby areas.
The environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in October 2011 calls for the construction of a disposal area to be developed prior to road constructions and other earth movements. The project develops existing and new access roads to project site.
The ECC provides that “earth and other construction spoils, solid wastes and other form of wastes shall be prevented from deposition to and along the course of the Chico River and other environmental sensitive areas.”
Dominguez said construction of permanent structures along the slopes near the Chico River is necessary before the rainy season comes to prevent erosion and siltation on the river.
Engineer Raffy Macabiog, Hedcor’s engineering supervisor of the mini hydro project located at Namatec and Napua said spoils shall be cleared before February 5 and other corrective measures done by end of February.
He also said erosion control measures had been in place like sandbagging and rock armoring. Dominguez, an engineer by profession, however, said sandbagging and rock armoring are not durable enough to withstand erosion.
Apparently, the ECC-provided multipartite monitoring team omposed of Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau, local leaders of Sabangan and Mountain Province, and representatives from Hedcor did not do their functions.
Following the January 23 meeting, a separate and independent Municipal Monitoring Team composed of representatives from the private sector, church, media and the LGU, meeting on specific schedules, was created by Mayor Donato Danglose of Sabangan to monitor implementation of the project based on ECC guidelines and free prior and informed consent (FPIC)-memorandum of agreement (MOA) issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
Earlier, Ceasar Bulagsay of the Napua United Guides Association reported damages caused by road construction at Napua especially along the route leading to Nanbayo Falls route. The report reaching the Municipal Tourism Council and the Municipal Solid Waste Management Council of Sabangan prompted Mayor Danglose to form an investigation team headed by Sangguniang Bayan councilor Fausto Ballakis to validate the report and do immediate inspection of the construction site and reported damages.
Danglose further issued a letter to Hedcor expressing concern on the confirmed environmental damages further demanding Hedcor to show cause why a cease and desist order shall not be issued for violating the FPIC-MOA and the ECC.
The FPIC-MOA with the indigenous peoples of Napua and Namatec covering the Tinmakudo ancestral domain issued February 2011 calls on Hedcor “to prevent, mitigate or avoid disastrous ecological damages within the project area brought about by the construction of the hydro power plant.”
The 25-year MOA between Hedcor and the Sabangan local government unit calls on Hedcor to initiate measures “to protect and preserve the forest and water resources within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality.” Ground breaking of the 14-megawatt mini hydro was observed on June 18, 2013.
The Sabangan mini hydro plant with its 3.2-kilometer long headrace from the intake weir to the powerhouse is a run-of-river hydropower plant that will generate power from the waters of the Chico River to over 55-million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually. Hedcor is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aboitiz Power Corp.